It was a cold and windy December night in 2002 when I met a sales director from Pfizer at my office in Aoyama, Tokyo. Let’s call him “Hibbi-san.” Hibbi-san looked like he came straight out of central-casting for the part of “Sales Director.” He had a sharp appearance from his wing-tipped shoes to his immaculate white shirt and dark blue tailored suit. Hibbi-san also was a sharp salesman. As we spoke about his career and accomplishments in leading a primary care sales force team, he shared with me some of his secrets for achieving his outstanding sales record.
At the end of every year, around November, he would take the time to reflect on the past year: what was done well and what needed to be improved or scrapped for the coming year. He then would set goals for the next 12 months and work backwards towards a plan to achieve that goal; he would begin with the end in mind. “Philip,” he told me, “any plan is better than no plan. It is not so much the plan that makes the difference but the process of putting pen to paper and committing yourself to achievement. Average sales guys hope for the best; they don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.”
Hibbi-san shared with me a ritual that he had been performing for the previous twenty years. He said that each year he bought a cheap Daruma doll, which is a hollow, round, Japanese traditional doll representing Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. When it is purchased, the space for the doll’s eyes is blank. A person decides on a goal or wish, and paints one eye in. Once the person achieves the goal, he or she fills in the second eye. Hibbi-san stressed, however, that the Daruma doll ceremony is not enough. As the Bible says in James 2:14, “Faith without works is dead.”
Hibbi-san then explained the next step: once you have established your goal, and you have made a monthly and weekly plan to achieve it, you need then to program your mind to ensure success. When he told me this, Hibbi-san leaned forward, gazed at me with his jet black eyes, and said, “Write your goals down on paper every day.” He explained that writing your goals in the past tense, as though as they have already been achieved, is programming your subconscious. Your thoughts and actions will then work towards achieving that goal. Hibbi-san suggested that it was like a brain cleansing. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” he preached, quoting Napoleon Hill.
Fifteen years later, I still often think of Hibbi-san and the lessons he taught me on that cold winter night. Each night before bed, I take out my notebook and write down my goals. Each December, I buy my Daruma doll, and more often than not, I draw in one of the blank eyes.
I’m very grateful to Hibbi-san for his advice, and, years later, I have come to realize another lesson from him: help someone else along the way as you strive to reach your goals. It is counterintuitive that by helping others it is a sure fire way to hit your goals.